ACC Week 12 bowl projections: Can the Tar Heels make the playoff?


There's just one week left in the regular season, and there's still a lot left up in the air when it comes to bowl bids for the ACC. Here's a quick look at some of the bigger questions still pending.

Can North Carolina make the playoff?

That's the biggest question. Obviously the Tar Heels would need to win out, and if so, a conference champion on a 12-game winning streak that just beat the nation's No. 1 team would be a strong case. But this question, more than any other, has a lot of “what ifs” associated with it.

How many ACC teams will make a New Year's Six game?

There's a good shot two will, but it will mean either North Carolina or Florida State needs to win in Week 13. A loss by both would essentially guarantee just one ACC team in the New Year's Six.

How does Notre Dame impact the ACC's bowl bids?

Given that the Irish are a virtual lock for the New Year's Six, there's no impact at all on the ACC. If Notre Dame happens to slip outside the New Year's Six, however, they would likely be the pick for the Russell Athletic Bowl, shifting all ACC teams down one spot.

If Virginia Tech gets to six wins, what bowls can they go to?

After the Russell Athletic, the next tier of bowls include the Belk Bowl, the Pinstripe Bowl and either the TaxSlayer or Music City bowls. The only caveat for any of those bowls when making their selections is that they cannot take a team that is more than one win apart from the best available team. In other words, as long as there are not three eight-win teams available for this tier of bowls, Virginia Tech would be in the mix and likely land in the Belk Bowl.

How is it decided whether an ACC team goes to the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida, or Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tennessee?

This is up to the individual bowls, based on which available teams are a better fit for each game. The ACC went to the Music City last year (Notre Dame) so it might be slightly more likely to head to the TaxSlayer this year, particularly if Florida State is in the mix. But for teams such as Louisville or Pittsburgh, the Music City might make more sense.

Virginia could get to 5-7. Is there any chance that could land the Cavaliers in a bowl?

Possibly. Right now, if FSU or North Carolina makes the New Year's Six, the ACC won't be able to fill its bowl slots. That would leave the Independence Bowl to find another team to play, and if there aren't enough six-win programs, it could lead to waivers for five-win teams. Given that bowl's ties with the ACC, it could look to the Cavaliers. But this remains a long shot. There are 71 teams already bowl eligible, and 14 more that can get there in the final week.

Capital One Orange Bowl (College Football Playoff): Clemson Tigers

Fiesta Bowl (New Year's Six): Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Peach Bowl (New Year's Six): Florida State Seminoles

Russell Athletic Bowl: North Carolina Tar Heels

Music City Bowl: Pitt Panthers

Belk Bowl: Virginia Tech Hokies

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Miami Hurricanes

Hyundai Sun Bowl: NC State Wolfpack

Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman: Duke Blue Devils

Quick Lane Bowl: Louisville Cardinals